Author's Note: I have used events from the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows book and last movie in this chapter. Please be aware that when the two did not agree, I picked the version that best served my purposes. Also, no Hermione/Ron kiss will find its way into this story because at this point Hermione and Minerva are firmly established.
May 1998 Part I
Furtively, Minerva glances behind her before striding down the hallway on the seventh floor. Something has happened. All the old secret passageways are guarded, dementors hover around all the boundary walls, and regular patrols travel through Hogwarts' halls—Severus and the Carrows are no longer attempting to disguise their support for Voldemort. Turning onto the left corridor, Minerva sees the entrance to the Room of Requirement form as she hurries to it. With one last look behind her, she enters the room.
"Professor!" Seamus Finnigan shouts across an enormous room. Looking around she spots several Gryffindors, a few Hufflepuffs, and some Ravenclaws sprinkled throughout the large room, as are their belongings—opened trunks, caged owls, House robes, heavy blankets, lit lamps, and bulging bookcases. Above them several multicolored hammocks are suspended. Not surprisingly no Slytherins are present. They are undoubtedly helping the Death Eaters with their preparations for whatever is to come.
"Where is Mr. Longbottom?" Minerva asks. She has just heard that the Caterwauling Charm was tripped at Hogsmeade. She sincerely hopes that was not his doing. She knows he, along with about twenty students, are holed up in this room to escape capture for acting out against Voldemort and their refusal to perform the Cruciatus curse on people who earned detentions.
"He just left through the passageway to Hog's Head, probably to get some food," Lavender Brown answers.
Nodding, Minerva takes a good look at her students. Many sport wounds and bruises, concerning her greatly. Of course, Poppy has been forbidden to treat them. She feels anger course through her. Evidently the medical supplies she brought here once she left Hermione ten days ago were gone. Ten interminable days. Ten heartbreaking days. They spoke three days ago, but it was not the same.
Hearing voices at the mouth of the secret tunnel, Minerva looks over expectantly. Excited voices fill the air in the next few moments as Harry, Hermione, and Ron follow Neville out of the passageway. Minerva hears little, her eyes fastened on Hermione's bright eyes. She wants nothing more than to swoop in and pull Hermione into her arms, but she stays rooted to the spot. Incapacitated by her position, Minerva rails at propriety. Aren't they in the middle of a war? Couldn't they all die at any moment? The Golden Trio's presence can only mean that Voldemort will soon arrive, that the final showdown is now, that it shall all end here.
Arms pull her into a fierce hug, and Minerva feels time speed up as she grasps Hermione to her shuddering body. The embrace is cathartic, and Minerva feels purpose fill her soul. It isn't just for the students or for the wizarding world that Minerva will fight on this day. It isn't merely to avenge her dear friend Albus's death or the many lives extinguished by Voldemort and his followers. She will fight to the death to protect this incredible woman.
"I love you, Minerva," Hermione whispers before pulling away. Minerva is tempted, so tempted to pull her back, to kiss her, to hold her, to declare her love in front of everyone, but once again Hermione takes the choice from her by stepping back two paces with a wry smile and dip of the head.
"Ms. Granger, Mr. Potter, and Mr. Weasley, it is good to see you in one piece," Minerva says stiffly while running her hands down the front of her robes and dusting off her arms. Her eyes flit around the room, and she is relieved to see that no one is shooting odd looks her way.
More noise from the passageway heralds the arrival of more people—Luna Lovegood, Dean Thomas, and then even more—the Weasley twins, Ginevra Weasley, Lee Jordan, and Cho Chang.
Harry stops mid-sentence and stares at Ms. Weasley, who only has eyes for him. They exchange greetings while Ron grouses about his sister ignoring him. Minerva bites back a chuckle. She can well understand their focus. After all, Minerva is having a hard time remaining circumspect while Hermione is mere feet away.
"Snape knows," Ms. Weasley says suddenly. "He knows Harry was spotted in Hogsmeade."
A cacophony of voices fills the air while everyone urgently provides ideas and demands action. More people crowd into the room, contributing to the medley of chaos.
"Longbottom. Are you well?" Minerva asks distractedly, recalling the reason she is here: the Carrows were laughing over their latest exploits earlier, including bestowing some nasty slashes on his face for refusing to follow their evil directives.
"I'm fine," he says, waving her concern off. "Don't worry about me. Now that they're here, Voldemort and his followers will get what's long in coming."
"Oh, are we able to say his name now?" Luna Lovegood asks with an air of interest.
"I don't think it makes any difference what we call him," Harry says. "He already knows where I am."
Feeling she needs to leave, if only so they can complete their planning while she rallies the professors, Minerva turns to Hermione. "What can I do to help?" she asks softly.
"I'm not sure," Hermione responds.
Hearing Harry talk about the Ravenclaw diadem, Minerva raises an eyebrow. Alecto Carrow is in the Ravenclaw common room. Before she can warn Harry to not search for answers there, he and Luna slip behind a small cupboard located in one of the room's corners to leave.
"Ms. Granger, I must go." Minerva leans in and whispers, "I love you. Please stay safe. I have so many more memories to create with you, my dear." She steps back and chances a look at Hermione's beautiful face. She can see the sorrow, the determination, the love. She wants to smile, to reassure Hermione, but the risks are so high and their future so uncertain that she cannot push past them to offer solace. Hermione's hand reaches out and squeezes Minerva's quickly, a small smile directed at her. Then Hermione turns back to Neville and resumes their conversation on what they need to do. Taking her cue, Minerva leaves, her heart quivering. She must prepare the castle for the ensuing battle, but first she must make sure Harry is not caught by the Carrows while trying to find the diadem.
Hermione stands outside the Great Hall's closed doors with several members of the Order of the Phoenix and Dumbledore's Army. Adrenaline shoots through her. She can hear Snape's words reverberating through the doors as clearly as if she were standing in front of him, threatening the students, demanding they turn Harry over. Gritting her teeth, Hermione waits with bated breath for the big reveal.
The Weasley twins stand to either side of Hermione and Ron, the elder Weasleys and Kingsley behind them along with Tonks and Lupin, and then Luna, Neville, Seamus and the others are standing behind them; they have formed three rows in the form of a triangle. Once Harry reveals himself, they will enter to show their support for him and their defiance against Snape and anyone else who follows Voldemort. Together they will make their final stand.
"It seems despite your exhaustive defensive strategies," Harry says, his voice ringing out, "you still have a bit of a security problem, Headmaster. I'm afraid it's quite extensive."
That's their cue. Hermione and Ron each push open a door and they stride into the hall as the others follow closely. Harry continues to talk, and Snape finally reacts by drawing his wand. The students move to the sides of the room, no doubt afraid of being caught in the crossfire.
Time slows down as Hermione watches Minerva come out of nowhere and push Harry behind her. Snape lowers his wand slightly before raising it again defensively. It is Minerva that goes on the attack, each spell thwarted by shield charms that Snape hastily erects. Hermione sneers with the realization that he will not attack her. The Carrows hit the ground as they are hit by the ricochet of a stun spell. To Hermione's shock, Snape jumps out the window, Minerva's shout, "Coward!" following him.
Just as Hermione begins to believe that they will have enough time to find the remaining Horcruxes, Voldemort's oily voice slithers through the castle, making her feel nauseous.
Shortly after his evil voice stops, Pansy Parkinson yells out for someone to grab Harry to hand him over to Voldemort. Ginny steps in front of him, and Hermione quickly steps up behind him. There's just no way she will allow anyone to hurt Harry, not after all they've gone through, not while she has the ability to protect him. Soon most everyone surrounds Harry defensively while Minerva has Pansy and the other Slytherins escorted out of the castle and the underage students evacuated. Good riddance.
With mere seconds left before she must leave with Ron to the Chamber of Secrets to find basilisk fangs to destroy the Horcruxes, Hermione's eyes search for Minerva. All she wants is a few moments with her. As Harry runs off and Minerva turns toward the doors, Hermione steps forward and lays a hand on her love's arm.
"Professor, I will see you soon," Hermione says. She wants to say so much more—please be careful, please know how much I love you, please don't die, please, please, please.
"Yes. Of that you can be sure," Minerva responds, a warm hand covering Hermione and squeezing gently. It isn't the words that make Hermione lose her breath, though, but rather the intensity of emotion communicated through Minerva's clear emerald eyes.
And then she is moving away, shouting out to Neville as several professors follow. As Hermione and Ron dash into the large vestibule, she watches in amazement as stone knights jump down from the high walls, animated and ready to protect Hogwarts.
"Hogwarts is in danger. Man the boundaries. Protect us. Do your duty to our school." Minerva's directives bolster Hermione's determination. With one last glance at Minerva's retreating figure, Hermione follows Ron to the second floor girls' lavatory. They have a power-hungry, immortality-seeking dark wizard to defeat.
It is over. Voldemort is dead, thanks to Harry's courageous final stand against him. Such a selfless act. How many times has he sacrificed himself? Faced death? And yet he is still alive, thank Merlin.
One of the worst moments of her life occurred when Minerva saw Hagrid holding Harry's lifeless body. The cry that ripped from her throat was pulled straight from her very soul. Shaking off those moments, Minerva searches the Great Hall to reassure herself he is alive and safe. She sees him sitting next to Luna.
His whispered words as she hugged him minutes after he defeated Voldemort still ring in Minerva's ears: Snape didn't betray Dumbledore. She needs to understand what he means. As the thought crosses her mind to approach him, she watches him disappear. Smirking, Minerva quickly realizes he has ducked under his Invisibility Cloak. She can't blame him. No doubt he needs some time alone, away from all the people seeking him out, touching him, talking to him. He symbolizes so much.
Although weary and wounded, Minerva feels light and joyful. Hermione is alive, and their way is clear to be together at last. She spies Hermione sitting off to the side with Ronald, away from those who are celebrating, talking excitedly, or helping the wounded. They both look exhausted. Hermione has blood on her chin. Minerva starts toward them, but stops when she sees them both look at the space between them and rise as one. Without a backward glance they walk out of the Great Hall. She decides to give them time to talk. No doubt they have much to work out now that their great quest is concluded.
So much has occurred in a relatively short span of time. Many lives, too many lives, have been lost, and the castle—Merlin! It will take much time and effort to repair it. Sighing, Minerva decides to see to transporting the wounded to St. Mungo's before reinforcing the wards. Although Voldemort is dead, many of his followers may still be on the grounds. Word has it that Death Eaters are fleeing the countryside in droves. The Auror Division has its work cut out with capturing those who acted on behalf of Voldemort. Then there is the chaos of determining whether any were actually under the Imperius curse while committing such atrocities. No doubt many will claim as much.
In addition, numerous individuals were wrongly committed to Azkaban who now need to be released. Just thinking of the next steps exhausts Minerva. Thankfully, Kingsley has been appointed as the temporary Minister of Magic. Better him than me.
What calms Minerva, though, what infuses her with energy, are thoughts of how soon she will hold Hermione in her arms, kiss her plump lips, and feel her soft skin sliding against her own. Knowing that she will be able to move forward with Hermione by her side brings a soft smile to her face. She winces as her cheek begins to throb. She will need to get it looked at by Poppy later. Having a younger lover has reinforced the fact that she must take care of herself.
Smiling at the serendipitous moment, Minerva turns to Poppy to find out what she needs and to get treated for her own wounds.
The Great Hall is in shambles. Several of the walls have holes in them, stones of various sizes are strewn about the large room, and dust has settled like a gray blanket throughout the hall. People take up every available table and chair along the walls, some consoling, others talking excitedly. Hermione is not looking forward to dealing with the consequences of the war. It will take a long time to recover. Her eyes flitter about as she looks for the one person who will make the uncertain future more bearable.
As if hearing her thoughts, the venerable witch turns around, and their eyes meet. She looks tired, her cheek slashed by an errant hex and her robes slashed across her chest. But she is the most beautiful woman Hermione has ever laid eyes on, and she can clearly see Minerva's inner glow reaching out toward her.
Not caring what others think, Hermione runs toward Minerva. She sees Minerva instinctually extending her arms, waiting to have them filled. Just before she reaches Minerva, mere steps away, Hermione's body is jerked short, and she stands paralyzed in the midst of a rapidly quieting assembly of people.
"Hermione Granger, you are under arrest," a sonorous voice states, the words reverberating across the hall. Confused, Hermione stands motionless against her will, her eyes pleading with Minerva to help her.
"What is the meaning of this, Kingsley?" Minerva demands in a dangerous voice as she steps in front of Hermione defensively.
"I am sorry, Minerva, but I have no choice. She was a fugitive on the run, and she must face the charges against her."
"What charges?" Harry exclaims angrily. "She just helped us defeat Voldemort! How can you enforce a bogus law that was lodged against her just to capture her?"
"The charges are for truancy, for failure to attend school while under the age of majority and without her parents' consent. It is a valid law that was in effect long before Voldemort placed his followers in the Ministry. There is also the question of her parents' whereabouts," Kinsley says gravely.
"You know perfectly well why she did not go back to Hogwarts. We were helping Harry! If we came back here, we would have been captured or even killed," Ron shouts.
"Why not just arrest the lot of us then, huh? The Muggles and the blood traitors and everyone who broke one of those manufactured laws put into place to weed out anyone who didn't support Voldemort," Harry continues heatedly.
"Those laws have been overturned with the defeat of Voldemort, but the truancy charge is still valid and must be dealt with," Kingsley answers.
"This is absurd! After all she has done, all she has suffered, you would lock her up in Azkaban rather than pardon her?! For shame!" Minerva says.
"We cannot arbitrarily ignore the law just because she is our friend. What type of an example would that be—trading one corrupt government for another? I am sorry, but she must come with me so we can sort it out," Kingsley says. He turns to Hermione, who can feel tears running down her face, and waves his wand to release her. "Will you come peacefully?"
"Yes," she says, because what else can she do?
"Your wand?" Kingsley asks as he extends his hand. She surrenders it as she lowers her eyes, mortified.
"Leave her with me under house arrest, then," Minerva suggests.
"Minerva, she has been on the run for nearly a year. I cannot take the chance that she will escape again," Kingsley responds.
"Oh, come now! She has never given us a reason to doubt her word. If she promises to remain, then that should be sufficient," Minerva states.
"Minerva, while a warrant was out for her arrest, she has successfully slipped into the Ministry of Magic, broken into Gringotts, and entered Hogwarts! I cannot help but believe that if she wants to escape, she will accomplish it," Kingsley says dryly.
"Dad!" Ron says, turning to his father. "Can't you do anything?"
"I'm sorry. I'll do everything I can to exonerate her, but she'll have to go with him," he answers sadly.
"Let me talk to her privately first, Kingsley," Minerva says firmly. "You have my word that I will return her to you momentarily," she adds sarcastically.
"Do not leave the hall," he agrees with a reluctant nod.
Wiping away the tears on her face angrily, Hermione follows Minerva to the far end of the hall. She has no idea what to say. She is so tired, and she finds it hard to believe that instead of celebrating their hard-fought victory in the arms of her love, she must go—where?
"Am I really being taken to Azkaban?" she asks, her voice weakened by fear and disbelief.
"Yes, but we will get you out as soon as possible. I will not allow him to treat you this way!" Minerva says, her voice quivering with rage.
"My parents, they are somewhere in Australia," Hermione says softly. "I didn't tell them what I was planning or give them any warning. I don't know how they will react if we find them and restore their memories."
"Hush, my love. It will work out. You were protecting them, and one need only look to all the families that were attacked to see that you were saving their lives," Minerva says, her eyes bright with emotion.
They cannot touch, cannot hold hands or kiss or do anything to comfort each other, and it is killing Hermione. Instead, she stares into turbulent emerald eyes, hating how helpless she feels.
"Try to enter the dreamscape tonight," Minerva whispers.
Not understanding how she will be able to enter without her wand, Hermione opens her mouth to question Minerva's request. She is stopped by long fingers held against her lips, and it takes all her present control to not kiss them.
"I believe in you. You have taught me to not believe in all the rules that I followed for most of my adult life. You are extraordinary," Minerva says in a raspy whisper. "I will hold you in my arms tonight."
Without giving Hermione time to respond, Minerva turns and strides across the hall. In a daze, Hermione follows. They rejoin Kingsley, Ron and his parents, Harry, Ginny, and Luna. Hermione smiles tremulously at them before glaring at Kingsley. He stiffens noticeably before grasping her arm, nodding toward everyone, and disapparating them out of Hogwarts. Minerva's tear-stained eyes, full of fury and determination, bolster Hermione's resolve to not allow anyone to keep them apart for long.